Leap Motion, a small device that adds 3D motion control to laptops and desktops, will start shipping on May 13 to those who pre-ordered.
That’s a little bit later than the Q1 release date that Leap had previously announced. Michael Buckwald, CEO of Leap Motion, said in an interview that the company needed the extra time to scale up its manufacturing, get units to developers and give them time to build apps for the motion controller.
“It’s a situation where we want to make sure that we live up to everyone’s hopes and dreams about the device, and I think in this case it’s the right call,” Buckwald said.
Online orders will ship in the order that they’ve been received. You can still order a Leap online, but the price is now $80, up from its early pre-order price of $70. Best Buy, which has also promised to sell Leap in its retail stores, will begin stocking the device on May 19.
Leap got a decent amount of buzz last May, when it announced itself as being 200 times more accurate than any other motion controller on the market. The device–roughly the size of two fingers held together–sits on a desk, and creates an area of eight cubic feet to detect hands and fingers. It runs on Windows 7 and 8, and Mac OS X 10.7 and 10.8.
I briefly tried the Leap at CES in January, and found that it was accurate enough to detect tiny movements in my fingers. But at the time, Leap didn’t have many apps that it was ready to show. Along with today’s shipping news, the company announced its own app store, called Airspace, with apps from Autodesk, Corel and The Weather Channel, among others. Games will include Cut the Rope from Zeptolab, Dischord from DoubleFine and Wreck-It Ralph: Sugar Rush Speedway from Disney.
Leap doesn’t consider its app store to be a big money-maker, and in fact the company has no problem with developers taking their Leap-supported apps elsewhere. That’ll be important if developers want to write apps for the new Modern interface of Windows 8, which may only be sold through the Windows Store, or if they want to take advantage of iCloud integration through the Mac App Store. The point of Airspace is to help people find supported apps easily.
“We’re not in the app store business and we don’t plan on making much money from the app store,” Buckwald said. “It’s about making sure users have as many places as possible to find great content.”
Users will also be able to create an account with Leap, and when they plug the device into other computers, their apps they’ve previously downloaded will install automatically. The store will live on the Web as well, so people can browse the selection without actually owning a device.
Leap hasn’t revealed exact sales figures, but Buckwald said the company has taken “hundreds of thousands” of preorders and has shipped 12,000 units to developers already.
The company will surely face competition. An updated version of Kinect seems inevitable, and a company called Thalmic Labs recently announced an armband motion controller called MYO, which measures electrical activity in your muscles. Another company called PointGrab has created a software-based solution that works with existing PC webcams, albeit in 2D only.
Buckwald said he’s fine with the competition. “There is no technology that can meet everyone’s needs in the space,” he said. “We think that this is the future of how people interact with computers, and there are going to be many different solutions trying to solve different problems.”